A Cambodian courtroom on Tuesday sentenced exiled opposition leaders Sam Rainsy, Mu Sochua and 10 different activists to jail in a case linked to 2021 social media feedback.
The feedback had been made in a Fb dialogue in early 2021 about whether or not Cambodians ought to briefly cease making mortgage funds because the COVID-19 pandemic slowed enterprise actions throughout the nation.
One other set of Fb feedback stemmed from a information story about high-ranking officers purchase citizenship in Cyprusa European Union member state the place a extremely profitable citizenship-by-investment scheme has attracted numerous rich Cambodians looking for a second passport.
Sam Rainsy, Mu Sochua, Eng Chhai Eang and Ho Vann – all former MPs from the now banned Cambodia Nationwide Rescue Occasion – had been sentenced to eight years in jail, a positive of 4 million riel (about $966) and banned from operating for workplace for political workplace for 5 years.
Decide Li Sokha of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court docket additionally issued an arrest warrant for the 4 CNRP leaders, all of whom stay exterior Cambodia.
The CNRP was the nation’s principal opposition celebration till late 2017, when the Supreme Court docket dissolved the celebration after making important positive factors in municipal elections.
The celebration’s chief, Sam Rainsy, lives in France and has been convicted in absentia a number of instances since 2016 in instances that opposition officers say had been politically motivated.
CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua lives in the US, as do Eng Chhai Eang and Ho Vann.
‘This isn’t a criminal offense’
Lawyer Sam Sok Kong instructed Radio Free Asia that his purchasers solely expressed their political opinions within the Fb discussions. He added that the choose by no means referred to as his purchasers again to Cambodia to testify in courtroom.
“That is about freedom of expression for public figures,” he stated. “This isn’t a criminal offense. It is a proper assured by the Structure and worldwide regulation.”
The opposite activists within the case had been jailed for 5 years, though the five-year jail sentence of a defendant who defected to the ruling Cambodian Folks’s Occasion – Roeun Veasna – earlier this 12 months was suspended.
All twelve defendants had been convicted of sedition and conspiracy to commit treason.
Solely certainly one of them, CNRP activist Voeung Samnang, was in courtroom on Tuesday. He shouted that the decision was politically motivated, moments earlier than guards escorted him again to jail.
His spouse, Teang Chenda, instructed RFA that the decision was meant to harm an harmless one that needs democracy for Cambodia.
“The courtroom had no concrete proof, however convicted him anyway,” she stated. “The ruling has had a psychological impression on my kids.”
She added that her husband has additionally been convicted on a separate set of prices associated to his political activism and will face a complete of 11 years in jail.
Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed.